The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has published details of the changes it is to make in how it levies financial penalties on law firms and solicitors and how it will publish disciplinary information.
The reforms, which which are set to come into effect later in the year, will see:
- the introduction of a fixed-penalty regime for lower-level misconduct
- future fines for both firms and individuals linked directly to bandings based on percentages of income/turnover
- a pilot on the use of personal impact statements for cases involving sexual misconduct, discrimination or any form of harassment.
The changes, which were confirmed last year following feedback to the “Financial Penalties: detail of new approach” consultation, are intended to help the SRA and law firms by ensuring that cases are resolved more quickly – thus saving time, costs and stress for all involved. In addition, the new fining bands will enable different levels of fine to be issued to a low-earning junior solicitor compared to a senior equity partner for similar offences.
In addition to reforming how they issue penalties, the SRA have also published details of their approach to publishing information on disciplinary decisions. This was addressed in the consultation “Publication of Regulatory Decisions” which closed in August 2022. Here they plan to:
- publish more information, written in plainer English, for all individual decisions;
- introduce set periods – based on decision type – for which individual decisions will remain on the public record. These will range from three years for warnings or fines to strike-off decisions remaining public permanently.
The SRA state that the feedback from these consultation exercises was broadly supportive, although concerns were expressed about some specific elements of the proposals. This led to changes to the original proposals on issues such as the composition of adjudication panels and referring any cases involving third-party witnesses to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
Ahead of the new provisions coming into effect, the SRA state that they will be publishing further support materials and guidance.